Women Make Up More Than 60 Percent of the 2017 Class of Truman Scholars

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation has announced the selection of the 2017 Truman Scholars. Each Truman Scholar is awarded up to $30,000 for graduate study. They also receive priority admission to several top-tier graduate schools, have career and graduate school counseling opportunities, and are fast-tracked for internships within the federal government.

Truman Scholars must be U.S. citizens and be in the top 25 percent of their college class. They must express a commitment to government service or the nonprofit sector. Since the establishment of the program in 1975, 3,139 students have been named Truman Scholars.

This year, 62 Truman scholars were selected from 768 candidates nominated by 315 colleges and universities. Of this year’s 62 Truman Scholars, 38, or 61.3 percent, are women. Here are brief biographies of the women named Truman Scholars this year.

2017 Class of Truman Scholars

Ryann Alonso, Yesenia Ayala, Rebecca Blais, Taylor Cofield, Sarah Cornelius, Anna DeLoi, Eleanore Denegre, and Maya Durvasula

Ryann Alonso is enrolled at the University of Arkansas where she is majoring in political science and communications. A native of Oklahoma, she registered more than 500 students to vote during the 2016 election cycle. She plans to go to law school and continue nonprofit voter advocacy work.

Yesenia Ayala is a third-year student at Grinnell College in Iowa double-majoring in sociology and Spanish with a Latin American studies concentration. She is a Posse Scholar from Los Angeles. After graduating from Grinnell she hopes to continue her education and ultimately influence education policy, ensuring underrepresented voices are heard and that public policy benefits all students in the nation.

Rebecca Blais is a political science major with a peace studies minor at the University of Notre Dame. She was elected student body president in January. Blais has been active in sexual assault prevention and health and wellness programs on campus. She is interested in constitutional studies and international law.

Taylor Cofield is a junior political science and international studies major with a minor in Middle East studies at the University of Missouri. She also is studying Arabic. Cofield is a member of the university’s track team and is current legislative intern with the Missouri State Senate. Upon graduation, she hopes to fulfill a two-year assignment in the Peace Corps and then pursue a dual master’s and law degree program in contemporary Arab studies and national security law.

Sarah Cornelius is pursuing a degree in political science with minors in urban education policy and Spanish at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. She has interned for the School District of Philadelphia and in the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity. Cornelius also volunteers in the local public schools.

Anna DeLoi was home schooled in New Hampshire for 12 years and is now a music and psychology double major at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. As a harpist, she has soloed with symphony orchestras and on national television and radio. She was a 2014 Presidential Scholar in the Arts and performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.

Eleanore Denegre is a student at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, majoring in sociology. She is from Billings, Montana. She is the program coordinator for Reed College’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program. After graduation, Denegre Eleanore plans to spend a year in Japan and then attend law school.

Maya Durvasula is from New Mexico and is currently enrolled at Duke University. Before entering college, she took a gap year serving as policy director for a successful political campaign in New Mexico, an analyst for the State Senate, and as an intern with a local think tank. She serves as an editor of the Duke Political Review. An economics major, with a math minor and politics, philosophy, and economics certificate, she intends to pursue graduate work in economics.

2017 Class of Truman Scholars

Dakota Foster, Annika Freudenberger, Rachel Gallina, Autumn Guillotte, Hanan Alex Hsain, Lexis Ivers, Chelsea Jackson, and Mishi Jain

Dakota Foster is a double-major in political science and Asian languages/civilizations at Amherst College in Massachusetts. Foster has interned for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. At Amherst, she is a college tour guide and plays on the women’s lacrosse team.

Annika Freudenberger spent her childhood in Madagascar, before moving to Burlington, Vermont at age 12. Now she is a student at Barnard College in New York City, majoring in urban studies. Freudenberger has interned at the Drug Policy Alliance and for the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Rachel Gallina is a student at Boise State University in Idaho, where she is majoring in economics and Arab world studies. She has worked with Syrian refugees in Jordan, aided community development in Swaziland, and served in a variety of social empowerment efforts in the Balkans, Israel, and Palestine. She plans to earn a Ph.D. in socio-legal studies.

Autumn Guillotte is a student at the University of Rhode Island, majoring in history and philosophy with a minor in work, labor, and social justice. After graduation, she plans on studying labor law while continuing as a social activist.

Hanan Alex Hsain studies materials science and engineering at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. She conducts energy harvesting research to combat reliance on carbon-based energy. Her goal is to obtain a Ph.D. in electrical materials engineering and to work to address the national security threats posed by climate change.

Lexis Ivers is a third-year student at American University in Washington, D.C., where she studies law and policy. She is the founder and director of Junior Youth Action DC, a mentorship program focused on the academic and personal development of foster youth. She plans to pursue a career in child welfare law, which will allow her to advocate for children when foster care systems fail.

A native of Decatur, Georgia, Chelsea Jackson is pursuing degrees in political science and African American studies at Emory University in Atlanta. She is a co-founder of Atlanta Black Students United, an activist network for students committed to racial justice in metropolitan area. She plans to attend law school and then practice civil and human rights law.

A Sugar Land, Texas, native, Mishi Jain is a political science and policy studies double major at Rice University in Houston. She is president of the Student Forum at the Baker Institute for Public Policy and is the founder of the American Association of University Women chapter at Rice. She plans to go to law school and also to obtain a master of public policy degree.

2017 Class of Truman Scholars

Nadine Jawad, Rachael Johnson, Alexis Kallen, Rachel Knowles, Attiya Latif, Claire Lynch, Killian McDonald, and Athena McNinch

Nadine Jawad is a first-generation student at the University of Michigan, studying public policy with a concentration in women’s health. She plans to earn a medical degree and a master of public health degree and aspires to work as a gynecologic oncologist and in reproductive health advocacy. Jawad is the co-founder of the nonprofit organization Books for a Benefit, which works to combat educational disadvantages faced by those in low-income areas of Michigan.

Rachael Johnson is a student at the University of Northern Iowa. She serves on the Board of Regents for the State of Iowa and is only the tenth student in Iowa to serve in this capacity. She also serves as a commissioner for the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service. Johnson plans to pursue a career in higher education.

Alexis Kallen is double majoring in political science and feminist, gender, and sexuality studies with minors in human rights and Spanish at Stanford University. She has conducted research in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Rwanda, and Spain on different women’s rights issues. Kallen aspires to become an international human rights lawyer.

Born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, Rachel Knowles is currently studying political science at Barnard College in New York City. She is the vice president of the Roosevelt Institute at Columbia University, a student-run think tank, where she focuses on devising and implementing policy solutions to New York City’s affordable housing crisis. Knowles is also an intern at the district office of U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, where she works on healthcare casework.

The daughter of immigrants, Attiya Latif is a Jefferson Scholar at the University of Virginia. This summer, Latif is implementing a trauma-processing workshop for refugee women in Rabat, Morocco, with the help of local students from La Université Internationale De Rabat.

Claire Lynch studies political science and Jewish studies at the City College of New York, with a specific interest in migration, immigration, and refugee policy. In college, she has studied Arabic and specialized in Middle Eastern affairs, culminating in an Arabic language program abroad in Amman, Jordan.

Killian McDonald is a political science and women’s leadership double major from South Carolina studying at Clemson University. She is only the second Clemson student to be named a Truman Scholar and the first since 1979. For her honors thesis in political science, she is researching how women representatives affect their constituents’ views. She plans to pursue a master of public policy degree.

Athena McNinch was born and raised on the U.S. Island Territory of Guam in the Western Pacific and she is a junior majoring in criminal justice pre-law and public administration at the University of Guam. In graduate school, McNinch intends to study federal policy in U.S. territories, and she also intends to go to law school. Her life goal is to help the people of Guam improve their political and governing relationship with the United States.

2017 Class of Truman Scholars

Mikaela Meyer, Kathleen Nganga, Andi Peng, Keren Rosario-Ortiz, Miranda Rosen, Celina Scott-Buechler, Malina Simard-Halm, and Ashley Sorenson

Mikaela Meyer is studying mathematical statistics with a minor in political science at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. She plans to obtain a Ph.D. in statistics and hopes to pursue a career in the federal government. Meyer is the president of Purdue College Democrats and a member of Purdue’s debate team.

Kathleen Nganga, from the state of Wyoming, is a political science major in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Her research focuses on marginalization, policy responsiveness, as well as political mobilization and conflict in the United States and East African nations. On campus, she is director of education for the Northwestern University Community for Human Rights. Nganga plans to pursue her graduate education in politics and social policy.

Andi Peng is a junior at Yale University where she studies how technological innovation and public policy intersect to shape economic prosperity, public health, and national security. As a double major in global affairs and cognitive science, she researches artificial intelligence and machine learning. Last summer, Peng worked at NASA. After graduation, Peng plans to pursue graduate degrees in computer science and public policy.

Keren Rosario-Ortiz is studying elementary education with an emphasis in special education and deaf and hard of hearing students at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus. She plans to earn a Ph.D. in speech and language pathology.

Miranda Rosen is a student at Princeton University in New Jersey, where she majors in history and is pursuing certificates in the history and practice of diplomacy, European cultural studies, and Judaic studies. Rosen, who lives in Nevada, plans to attend law school and hopes to pursue a career in civil rights and anti-discrimination law fighting for the rights of underprivileged groups.

Celina Scott-Buechler has crafted an independent major around issues of marine conservation science and coastal sustainability studies at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. She plans to pursue graduate studies in marine conservation and coastal social inequality.

Malina Simard-Halm lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She currently studies political science and economics at Yale University with a concentration in mass incarceration. Passionate about criminal justice reform and social justice, Malina spends time outside of school working at the Federal Public Defender’s office.

Ashley Sorenson was raised by a single mother on a farm in rural South Dakota. She is now a student at Beloit College in Wisconsin where she is majoring in political science and critical identity studies. She has worked as an intern in the South Dakota Legislature. Sorenson plans to pursue a joint law degree and a Ph.D. in political science, researching the feminization and racialization of rural poverty.

2017 Class of Truman Scholars

Cristine Stark, Taslim Tavaras-Garcia, Soreti Teshome, Lilith Winkler-Schor, Mikaela Wolf-Sorokin, and Kristiana Yao

Cristine Stark is a student in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. Before going to college, she spent five years in the U.S. Marine Corps as an Arabic linguist. This summer, Stark will serve as a foreign service intern at the U.S. embassy in Pristina, Kosovo.

A first-generation immigrant from the Dominican Republic, Taslim Tavaras-Garcia studies political science and peace and justice studies at Pace University in New York. She interns at the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs in New York, and at the Institute of International Education.

Soreti Teshome, from Nebraska, studies public policy and comparative race and ethnic studies at the University of Chicago. She has spent the last two summers interning with criminal justice focused organizations in Chicago. She currently serves on the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission Youth Advisory Board. Teshome plans to become a civil rights lawyer.

Born in Munich, Germany, and raised in the Seattle area, Lilith Winkler-Schor is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in social policy, and political science, and a bachelor of fine arts degree in glass and sculpture at Tulane University in New Orleans. Winkler-Schor hopes to work as a social impact designer, merging her interests in place, community development and art.

Mikaela Wolf-Sorokin is a global studies and Hispanic studies double major at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. She is spending four months on the Arizona-Mexico border this summer providing humanitarian aid to migrants in the desert. She hopes to pursue a degree in law.

Kristiana Yao studies public health and business administration as a Stamps Scholar at the University of Miami. She has interned with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the White House Domestic Policy Council, and the Senate Finance Committee.

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